One is the only number to your life and your body and if I could make a shape for this number and for you I would make it a circle. Here we are again on October 17, where the sun warms up the earth for the middle of the day but it is colder and crisper on each end, where the tree in our yard alights and burns while its sparks and embers fall to the ground and set fire to our yard. Here you are again, strapped to my belly, still kicking and rolling, still so much a part of me that you are impossible for even my subconscious to ignore.
Time is supposed to be domestic and predictable, but I think it has a wild streak in it because it never goes at the pace we think it will. How can a year be only 365 days? I have only pictures and memories to take with me from this last trip around the sun, but I have so many of those it seems impossible that they could fit into such a small amount of time. In one year people write theses and travel abroad, cook their way through Julia Child and start new jobs, but in one year you have gone and put an entirely new, crawling, mobile, chatty self right on top of that little new born, so when I look at pictures of you a year ago I hardly recognize the girl that was there.
One year ago at dawn the midwife passed your warm, squishy body to me so that as the sun rose and cracked into the night’s darkness; as the the world around us entered into the day, we entered into it more separate, more together, than we had been before. You are the closest thing to the Beginning I have ever touched. Everyone warned me about the pain and then the joy but no one told me how powerful it would feel to lay my hand on someone so new, how Andrew and I heard your first breath and cry and we worshipped the God who had done all of these things so far out of our control.
I think about the things I ate this year— the chili my sister brought to the hospital, the coffee your dad had to travel six floors to find while I picked out your very first floral outfit, the meals brought to us by our families and church friends that stacked our freezer in aluminum lines for weeks. I think about the way that life returned to “normal” again— when I began to cook and it was like I picked up a piece of me I had left somewhere in October, back when I had to reach around you to touch the stove. You and I made pies together, Christmas cake, cookies, and hot chocolate. Your head seemed to be permanently sprinkled with flour as I brought you into my cooking and rhythms, as you made this kitchen and this little brick house more home than it had ever been. It’s October again and we’re making applesauce and pies, and it’s like there’s a new curve in my legs now made for you to wrap your arms around as you stand against them waving your spatula.
My relationship with your dad changed this year, as I realized that underneath my husband was a stranger I never could have uncovered on my own. There was a piece of him tucked up inside saved up all this time for you June, and I think it was in his shoulders, because that’s where you spend your time, riding around like smug sultan. I watched him laugh harder and work harder, watched him pace the hallways and bounce you while you cried in the early days and I watch him race these hallways as he pushes you around in a laundry basket these later days while you squeal and kick. I fell in love with that stranger completely and added it to the pile of strangers your dad is— the newest chapter of the unfolding story I signed up to read the rest of my life.
I have a hard time answering the specifics of your life June, because in my head and in the hours of my day you are so big and so much. I don’t know how much you weigh but I know that your belly pops out over your pants in a way that makes me cry because I think it is just the dearest, sweetest, most innocent thing. Maybe Goodnight Gorilla is your favorite book because you like the pictures of because you like the way the hard pages taste in your mouth, but you’ve started laughing when we get to that page with the gorilla letting out the lion and I realize you have a sense of humor. Did that drop into your crib one night and wrap itself around you so you just woke up knowing things were funny? I can’t describe in a sentence your personality because I am too close to it and it is everywhere, all around me, a giggling, babbling, hugging, crying, messy whirlwind that evolves more every day into the June you’ll become. And so I give up trying to explain it all and bury my face in your soft, squishy neck and rejoice and grieve this beautiful way you are growing up.
These are the things we celebrate about you this year June: the way your whole body quivers, literally shakes, with excitement every time you see a dog, a baby, or another human being. We celebrate your claps, your waves, your fangirl screams when we walk into a room. We celebrate your surprise gene, how easy you are to make laugh. We celebrate every one of your moods, which we experience on a daily basis— we love that whatever mood you’re in, you live in it completely.
We celebrate your sitting, standing, crawling— every physical milestone for what it is, but also for the way it’s allowed us to see more of June. We love the way you can’t help but dance during music at church or at home. We love the way you smile at and talk to anyone, and the way that, in your short life, that has allowed people on fringes to be brought in. You are already helping your dad and I to see other people differently. We love watching you play, entertain yourself; we love the way you bring a book to us and sit on our laps while we read it.
Our tree is on fire and the sun heats the concrete of the sidewalk as we take a lap around the neighborhood this evening, just like we did last year. But we are so different June, and if I can’t describe well the physical, tangible progress you have made in one year, it would be impossible to explain the change inside of me, but I think it’s also circular. Maybe every year I’ll come back to this place and think again that this specific mother and daughterhood is a circle where we grow through and because of each other. I hold on to this good, beautiful task of being your mother without quite understanding yet what it’s doing to me, and catch every drop of this joy of watching you grow.